The Ideal Outlook for Implementing a Quality Management System
Never let anyone know that you are implementing a Quality Management System. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but for those outside governance disciplines, framework fatigue is a concern. The American Society for Quality(ASQ) defines a Quality Management System as “A formal system that documents the structure, processes, roles, responsibilities, and procedures required to achieve effective quality management.” Written by quality professionals, it’s a definition that would not make your team jump from their cubes and say, “let’s get one of those!”
Rather than talking about a QMS, why not invest in a cloud solution for documents and procedures that would let anyone on a development team know they are looking at up-to-date requirements, standards, or processes? If they had a question about the document, they could easily find the author, the owner, and who was involved in approving it. An investment like that would be a valuable asset in reducing wasted time in finding needed information or rework from using stale information. It also might be a good time to discuss keeping track of required training. While it is not difficult to make sure that teams complete the annual requirements, how do we ensure people are up-to-date on changes without putting the onus on them to check for updated training? An investment in this area would make associates, and their managers live easier.
Any new framework or solution is likely to be met with resistance for all the reasons that inhibit change, so sell the benefits, not the tool
Instead of a QMS CAPA module, another fertile area for investment is in handling incidents and subsequent investigations. In a large IT ecosystem, it’s difficult to make the information rise above the noise. Almost every team has a system to accumulate large amounts of data on events and incidents in their systems, and we are good at capturing the impacted applications. An investment in identifying the underlying processes that are breaking down in the development, deployment, and running of these applications would allow us to spend less time reacting to events, and more time innovating new solutions. If we invest in a rigorous approach to identifying corrective and preventative actions, we are likely to reap benefits across our organizations.
We tend to rely on the fact that with all things being equal, successful teams are apt to remain successful. Unfortunately, it’s rare that circumstances remain the same: demands on applications change, teams change, and success sometimes leads to complacency. We can hope that we have put robust processes in place for the development and maintenance of systems and that these will prevent problems from cropping up. However, we only become aware of breakdowns when they become repetitive or impactful. It’s not feasible to employ a team of “watchers” to look over everyone’s’ shoulders. This sort of “monitor everybody all the time” approach may result in your best folks feeling insecure and untrusted and could impact inter-team dynamics.
Implementing a schedule of reviews based on the risk profile of the applications is likely to be better accepted. Marrying this with a practice of using findings to provide training to achieve better outcomes is a true winner. This method would be much easier to digest than “installing a QMS Audit module with precise reporting of the mean time between failures by process and team.”
You are likely to have realized that together, all these initiatives cover the major components of a Quality Management System. Selling teams on the outcomes to be achieved is more palatable than selling them on a new software package. Any new framework or solution is likely to be met with resistance for all the reasons that inhibit change, so sell the benefits, not the tool. Implement processes which are just heavy enough to do the job and no heavier.
And lastly, group attitude is essential for success. Teach teams what right is, give them the tools to succeed and then publicly recognize and elevate true examples of a quality attitude. But of course, never let anyone know you are going to implement a “Quality Culture.”